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Educating expats: Helping your children cope with foreign schooling

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Tips on choosing the best education option for your kids and how to help them integrate in their new school overseas. [Contributed by TorFX]

If you’re planning a move to a foreign country with your family, you’re probably well aware of the headache of finding appropriate schooling. With education standards so varied across the globe, it’s crucial to find the best education option for your young ones. This article aims to kick start your research with some top tips to help your child integrate in a foreign school.  

The best laid plans 

Deciding which type of schooling is most suitable for your child will be largely determined by your future plans. One of the first questions to ask yourself is: How long are you planning on living overseas? For those who will only be expats for a limited period and plan on moving back home, it’s really worth finding a school that has a similar curriculum to your home nation 

Those planning on remaining an expat for a considerable period — with their child likely to complete their education overseas — can afford to be a bit more flexible in terms of the curriculum. In these circumstances, a local school may prove a better option than an international institution as it will give your child the chance to integrate with the community and make local friends.  

Learn the lingo 

Whilst most countries have international schools that teach in a number of languages, they can be expensive or situated at some distance from where you end up settling. Even if you’re only planning a temporary move, learning the language will provide a number of advantages well beyond education. As well as considerably enhancing their time overseas, being bilingual will open up a world of opportunities for your children in their later life. Children tend to be much more receptive to learning a foreign language than their older counterparts so you may find that they pick up keywords and phrases quicker than they might expect.    

If you are moving permanently and have decided to send your child to a local school; learning the language is even more important. School years are formative for development and children learn far more than just academic subjects. Social skills, empathy and discipline are all acquired at school, and for a child to get the most out of their education, it’s important that they can communicate with their teachers and peers. Even a very basic understanding of the language will make a massive difference. Many local schools offer extra local language facilities and some provide classes for parents and children to attend, an option which is well worth looking into.   

Knowledge is power: understanding local customs 

Whether you’re planning a temporary move or a permanent relocation, understanding local customs is essential when choosing a school for your child. If your child attends a Catholic school in a deeply religious country, for example, you will need to appreciate that aspects of the curriculum will be different and your child will be expected to abide by religious teachings. If local customs and or views are significantly different from your own, or what you wish to teach your child, finding a local school could prove problematic.  

Another important reason for fully understanding local views and customs is to make sure your child is fully integrated. If you send your child into a foreign school without any knowledge of how locals think/feel about social issues, you could potentially alienate them from the outset.   

It is also worth noting that the length of the school day, and year, can vary from country to country, school to school, so if you work and need to arrange childcare to fit around your child’s schooling you may wish to do some research in this area 

Choice is key 

One major pitfall to avoid is putting all of your eggs in one basket. After plenty of research, you may have your heart set on a particular school, but having several alternatives as backup is advisable. School places are never a guarantee. Also, the ‘perfect’ school may not be as good as it looked online. If you’re able to arrange a pre-move visit you may get a better feel for the school and area. Additionally, it’s always worth asking locals for their opinion.   

Of course there is always the option of home schooling if you can accommodate it. Whatever route you go down, it is still worth having a firm foundation in terms of learning the language and local customs so your child can interact with local children and continue their social education.  

Paying fees 

You may wish to send your child to a private or boarding school rather than a free local school. If this is a path you’re going down on, you’ll need to look into how you intend to pay the school fees. This is a relatively simple affair if you are being paid in the local currency, but not if your money is being paid into a foreign bank account. In this instance you may find that using a foreign currency broker is more convenient and cost effective. As well as saving you money by not charging you transfer fees and securing you a more competitive exchange rate, currency brokers operate services that can make managing regular payments a breeze. A Regular Overseas Payments service, for example, would allow you to automate your transfers, saving you time and stress.  

Research, research, research!  

The internet is a beautiful tool and has a wealth of information to aid you in your search for a school. However, while you can get great insights from looking online, visiting and interacting with the schools you’re considering is the best way to get a really detailed picture. If you have not yet moved you can still phone schools or chat to locals in forums to make absolutely sure you have made the correct choice.   

Ultimately the type of school you pick for your child will come down to personal preference, but making sure your child is involved in the selection process could prove beneficial. By letting them feel as though they’ve had an input, you may find that they embrace the change more readily.  

If you’re in the process of planning a move overseas, good luck!   



Contributed by TorFX

 3 exchange rate moving developments to watch out for this week

TorFX is a specialist currency broker that offers far better exchange rates than you are likely to receive from a high street bank. 

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